FDR, Dewey, and the Election of 1944

FDR, Dewey, and the Election of 1944

FDR, Dewey, and the Election of 1944

FDR, Dewey, and the Election of 1944

Synopsis

Although the presidential election of 1944 placed FDR in the White House for an unprecedented fourth term, historical memory of the election itself has been overshadowed by the war, Roosevelt's health and his death the following April, Truman's ascendancy, and the decision to drop the atomic bomb. Today most people assume that FDR's reelection was assured. Yet, as David M. Jordan's engrossing account reveals, neither the outcome of the campaign nor even the choice of candidates was assured. Just a week before Election Day, pollster George Gallup thought a small shift in votes in a few key states would award the election to Thomas E. Dewey. Though the Democrats urged voters not to "change horses in midstream," the Republicans countered that the war would be won "quicker with Dewey and Bricker." With its insider tales and accounts of party politics, and campaigning for votes in the shadow of war and an uncertain future, FDR, Dewey, and the Election of 1944 makes for a fascinating chapter in American political history.

Excerpt

The night was clear and cool, a lovely early autumn Saturday evening, as the leaders of the Teamsters Union gathered at the Statler Hotel in Washington for their annual dinner. They looked forward to this gathering each year, but they especially anticipated this one. the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was coming. He was going to make the main speech, to them and to a nationwide radio audience. Saturday, September 23, 1944, looked like an exciting night.

Roosevelt, in office since March 4, 1933, was the Democratic candidate for an unprecedented fourth term in the White House, nominated to run against the Republican hopeful, Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York. Dewey had been campaigning hard for several weeks, scoring points on a western swing while Roosevelt took care of the many burdens of running a world war (with a trip to Hawaii and Alaska concerning the war in the Pacific mixed in). Democratic Party leaders were becoming a little nervous about the campaign, and they looked forward to FDR’s talk with even more anticipation than did the Teamsters in the Statler ballroom.

Indeed, Drew Pearson’s nationwide column appearing that day had said that Roosevelt himself was “less confident of winning than he was at the same time in 1940.” the President admitted privately that Dewey had “been hitting pay dirt” in the West and that the election was far from being in the bag.

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